Toward the end of his dream, the Babylonian king sees a rock cut out of—well, the Bible doesn’t tell us where it’s cut from—but it’s cut by hands that are not human, and this rock is hurled at the statue and crushes all the empires into billowing dust. The wind blows the dust away, and the mysterious rock grows and grows and grows until it takes over the whole earth.
Jesus and His Kingdom are that rock.
At the end of a parable in Matthew 21, Jesus says, “Anyone who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; anyone on whom it falls will be crushed.”
In other words, when we encounter the Rock, we get two choices, we get broken, or we get crushed. Neither of these things sounds very pleasant, but, according to Jesus, one of these choices leads to abundant life and the other to a miserable end.
In Daniel 2, the dream of Nebuchadnezzar teaches us that we are not to have crushes on the empire, but to be empire crushers. We are not called to put our faith in the empire and its emperors, because the empire is NOT the Kingdom.
Called Out of Babylon
The book of Revelation puts it another way. God’s people are called out of the empire (Babylon), an empire built on greed, selfishness, and self-advancement; an empire that distorts the character of God when religion joins hands with the government; an empire that looks like a lamb, but sounds and acts like a dragon.
Just as Daniel was living in Babylon and its values, culture, and corruption, we in the United States live in prophetic Babylon. And we are called to stand in principle and practice alongside Jesus to reject Babylon’s empire culture. We are not to be invested in the empire; we are to invest our time, thoughts, effort, and money into the Kingdom.
This world has a warped picture of God’s character, doesn’t it? We have people flying into buildings and blowing themselves up in public places in the name of God. And then we have people claiming to follow the Lamb that hold up signs that say God hates people. We’ve got people teaching that God sends natural disasters to punish places like New Orleans or Haiti. We’ve got churches holding hands with the government to force their idea of morality on its citizens, trying to enact laws that will force their morals on all who might disagree with them.
This is the Babylon that we are called out of. This is the kind of empire thinking that the Rock smashes to smithereens. At least it’s supposed to.
As I peruse my social media pages, what do I see? I see God’s people deeply rooted and invested in the empire and their idea of who would be the best emperor. They spend their time watching their favorite empire channels and listening to their favorite empire representatives on talk radio, spewing hate and division. These “Christians” post all kinds of divisive things they keep hearing on FOX, MSNBC, CNN, or Breitbart News, causing greater and greater rifts between people who think differently than they do. Much of the time, you would think that their political candidate is some kind of new messiah, sent to be the savior of the empire. And the conspiracy theories! The distractions of the empire seem to focus on people who are supposed to be about the business of the Kingdom. We’ve been distracted.
Instead of investing our time in prayer, study, and service to the Kingdom, so many of us spend hours in front of our favorite news commentary channels. While in the car, instead of listening to praiseworthy and uplifting thoughts, we fill our heads with political superiority, filling our heads with belittling comments about people who think differently than we do. Instead of placing our thoughts and hearts on the cross, we fret and worry and spend our emotional energy on the empire.
Somewhere along the way, we’ve been duped into thinking that a good Christian and a good American are the same things. We’ve wrapped Jesus in red, white, and blue and crowned Him King. Can you imagine Jesus putting His hand over His heart in a local synagogue saying, “I pledge allegiance to the flag of the Republic of Rome…?”
My friends, this is not Kingdom thinking; it’s empire thinking. The author of all this discord, the wizard behind the curtain, is the devil himself.
The refreshing appeal of Jesus and how He asks us to build His Kingdom is different from this. Jesus doesn’t call us to focus on the empire or its talking heads. He calls us out of empire arrogance (come out of her, my people) and into Kingdom humility. Jesus calls us to re-create a world that would reflect His prayer, that the will of God would be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Imagine a Revolution of Love
Imagine a group of people living out God’s enemy loving, non-violent, praise-filled, saving kind of love. Also imagine a group of people who take seriously stewardship of the earth God gave us and all the creatures on it. Imagine this group, undeterred by the pressures to conform to the empire, instead, even in the face of persecution, radically living out the love of Christ. It would be a revolution. It wouldn’t be popular, but following the Rock rarely is.
Imagine a whole church of Kingdom followers turning off all the political voices on the radio and television news and ignoring their calls for division and loyalty to their version of a better empire. Imagine these same people being as excited about spreading the Gospel of the Kingdom as they are about spending hours in front of the television having Fox, CNN, or some other network getting all riled up about empire ways.
Stop Arguing and Start Serving
This is what God’s church has been called to be. This is what God has called you to be. So, turn it off. All of it. Stop letting the voices of the empire tell you what to think and do. It’s an addiction. We’ve got to turn it off and get healthy again! We need to stop arguing and start serving. We need to serve the “least of these” but also listen to their stories. Like Jesus did. We need to practice civil discourse, learning from each other, and loving each other, despite our differences. We need to be broken by the Rock. Because that same Rock will smash the empire we are so invested in. And when it is, we don’t want to be part of the dust that it will soon become.
Mark Witas writes from the Pacific Northwest.
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